Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Grifters (1990)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Grifters (1990)

In Stephen Frears' modern crime neo-noir of treachery and double-crosses, based upon Jim Thompson's novel, about a threesome of con artists whose lives were inextricably intertwined, especially the two females who were engaged in a deadly power-struggle and love-triangle for the male's attention:

  • the use of a triple split-screen to introduce the three main "grifter" characters, as they went about their typical scams
  • the early scene of small-time, nickel-and-dime crook Roy Dillon (John Cusack), the estranged son of professional grifter Lilly Dillon (Anjelica Huston), who demonstrated clever bar scams with another customer and the bar-tender (he ordered a drink with a neatly-folded $20 and then paid with a concealed, neatly-folded $10 bill); however, shortly later in a different bar, the scam was detected and he was brutally hit in the stomach with a bat by the bartender
Roy's Bar Scam
  • the introduction of sexy, deceitful Myra Langtry (Annette Bening), who entered Stromberg's Jewelers shop where she conned the gullible jeweler (Stephen Tobolowsky) into believing that she wasn't hocking fake diamonds
  • a second scene of Myra demonstrating her wily ways by lounging naked on her bed to lure Joe (Gailard Sartain), her landlord, to forgive her for late payment of her rent by having sex with her; she proposed a choice: "Only one choice to a customer, the lady or the loot. What's it gonna be?"; then, as Joe laid on top of her, she exclaimed: "I was remembering at lunch, on the menu, it said, 'Today's special - Broiled hothouse tomato under generous slice of ripe cheese!'"
  • the scene of race-track hustler Lilly's visit to her Baltimore-based bookie boss Bobo Justus (Pat Hingle) who demonstrated his punishment for disloyalty and for being late and missing a sure-shot horse-race bet - he tortured her with an 'oranges-in-a-towel' beating and his burning cigar applied to her hand
  • in particular, the scene of Myra's naked, vixenish seduction of Roy in a hallway; she enticed and seduced him within a naked doorway to become his affectionate floozy girlfriend; she opened her door, standing there stark naked, ran by him in the dark hallway shouting: "Gangway," and then hid behind a curtain as she apologized: "I hope you don't mind, sir. I just washed my clothes and I couldn't do a thing with them." He chased after her and tossed her onto a bed
  • in the film's conclusion, Myra had been shot to death in her hotel room by the vengeful Lilly, and then Myra's face-blasted and disfigured corpse was made to look like Lilly's. Roy was called upon, as next-of-kin, to identify his mother at the Phoenix morgue - he concealed the fact that he noticed Lilly's right hand did not have its tell-tale cigar burn mark
Lilly's Shocking Seduction and Murder of Her Son Roy
  • in the shocking ending, Lilly was confronted by Roy as she appeared to be stealing his money in his place; during their last deadly confrontation, she argued that she was on the run and needed his money, and claimed she might make a break to get out of the con games and grifting (although she'd never had a legitimate job in her life) - she desperately begged and begged for his money, to tide her over: ("I need this money! I can't run without money! And if I can't run, I'm dead!...I want that money, Roy, I need it. Now, what do I have to do to get it? You mean you won't give it to me, Roy? Will you or won't you? What can I do to get it? Is there nothing I can do?"); when she came close and seductively and fatefully kissed him, he asked: "Lilly, Jesus, what are you doing?" She replied: "Nothing at all, nothing at all," but then in a bizarre twist, she swung a suitcase full of cash at her son's head as he was drinking water from a glass. The glass smashed and cut an artery in his neck - and he profusely bled to death on the floor in front of her! red-dressed Lilly gathered up the strewn cash, descended in a caged elevator, and calmly drove away

Split Screen

Lilly at Race Track

Myra Seducing Jeweler with Fake Diamonds

Myra Seducing Landlord to Avoid Paying Rent

Lilly's Hand-Burning with Cigar

Myra Langtry Seducing Roy

In the Morge, it was Myra's Right Hand, Not Lilly's


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